Governor Abbott Announces School Flexibility and Funding
On July 17, Governor Greg Abbott and several other state officials announced that Texas is apportioning $200 million of Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds to the Texas Education Agency (TEA). These funds will be used for technologies that will enable remote learning, particularly for students who may have limited internet access or connectivity. Local education agencies (LEAs) will identify needs so that the TEA can effectively provide hotspots, routers, and other devices.
“As school districts delay the start of in-person instruction for the 2020-2021 school year due to COVID-19, it is essential that we work to provide Texas students with the devices they need to connect and communicate online for classroom instruction,” said Governor Abbott. “As we continue to combat COVID-19 in Texas, we are committed to providing reliable and effective solutions that will help students academically succeed while protecting public health.” This funding is expected to prevent students who lack suitable internet access from falling behind in their education.
Interim House Committee Information
On July 16, Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen released information regarding interim options for conducting House committee business. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, House Committees have not been able to hold interim hearings or safely conduct other committee business. House Parliamentarians Sharon Carter and Hugh Brady have proposed three options for safely running committee business while allowing public participation and following the House Rules. Under these Rules, House Committees may not “use virtual meetings or virtual hearings to conduct business.” Committees are also not authorized to intentionally meet in any way, including via videoconference, “in numbers of less than a quorum.” The three options are below:
- Post committee chair updates on the House website – A committee chair may publicly post documents regarding the committee’s oversight work on the committee’s page on the House website.
- Issue a formal request for information through TLO/TLIS and the House website – Committee chairs can request information from agency personnel, experts, stakeholders, and the public. Notice of these requests will be publicly available on the TLO (external)/TLIS (internal) sites and the House website.
- Online events conducted by committee chairs – Committee chairs are permitted to host public forums, town halls, roundtables, or webinars to hear from experts on matters within the committee’s jurisdiction. If the chair chooses to invite House members, all members of the House must be invited. Committee chairs can conduct these online events through Zoom or social media accounts.
Comptroller Revenue Update
On Monday, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar will likely issue a revised biennial revenue estimate to account for the economic impacts of coronavirus. The Comptroller’s office will provide revenue information in two July 20 meetings. First, the Comptroller’s Cash Management Committee will meet virtually via Cisco WebEx Video Conference at 10:00 am to discuss the state’s general revenue cash flow shortfall forecast for the fiscal year of 2021, the general condition of the state’s economy, and issuance of tax and revenue anticipation notes for the state’s 2021 fiscal year.
Later that morning, the Comptroller’s office will testify on the financial condition of the state to the Legislative Budget Board. This virtual meeting will convene at 10:45 am and can be accessed at the links in the meeting agenda.
Bureau of Labor Statistics Unemployment Information for Texas
On July 17, the Bureau of Labor Statistics issued state unemployment statistics for June 2020. As of June 2020, the Texas unemployment rate of 8.6% is 2.5% lower than the U.S. unemployment rate of 11.1%. The Texas unemployment rate decreased from 13.0% to 8.6% (-4.4%) from May to June 2020. However, from June 2019 to June 2020, the state of Texas’ unemployment rate increased from 3.4% to 8.6% (+5.2%). The seasonally adjusted employment change from May 2020 to June 2020 was 225,200. The seasonally adjusted employment change from June 2019 to June 2020 was -696,200.